As my siblings and I say after a bad round in Super Smash Bros, it is a bad time in the Mushroom Kingdom. Actually, scratch that. I’m the only one who says it. They just repeat the same old Walmart memes the few moments that they’re not yelling at each other, and it gets frustrating real quickly.
Also frustrating is trying to keep the reins of my privacy in my own hands.
When I was in elementary school, Google’s online document suite was the brand new and exciting thing that the hip schools were jumping on and smearing all over their faces. Gone were the days of having to beg students to spend their precious pennies on flash drives so that they could transfer their shoddily made slideshows between the decrepit school computers still running Windows XP and whatever they had at their homes. There was nothing to fear, right?
It all started with an innocuous wanting to conduct cheap-jack games without the school’s oversight, escalated into an extremely insecure page divulging all my personal details, and nose-dove into a deep-seated bout of paranoia in the dregs of summer, resulting in the death of all of my social media accounts with the exception of Facebook and Pinterest. Books like The Circle and Dragnet Nation (which I bought a few days ago with a gift card I found under my bed) have only added fuel to the flame.
Since that week in August, I’ve been on a sort of desperate crusade for privacy. I’ve gone through countless data resellers, phone book websites, and online people lookups trying to delete entries for myself and the people close to me. The majority of them have complied without me having to divulge who I am myself- for all they know, I could be some person in Romania who has a searing obsession with poor Vane Vander. (Microsoft seems to be convinced that I really am from Romania, as they’ve urged me four times this week to change my password just because I used a VPN on my school computer.) I think I only ever had one photo of me on my blog, and I’ve taken that down. It hasn’t stopped there, as, with the help of a factory reset, a third-party app store, a tracker-blocking VPN, and multiple third-party syncers for my contacts and calendar, I’ve managed to completely free my rooted Android tablet from Google influence. My phone has yet to reach that stage, but as I get further along in setting up my OwnCloud server, it gets gradually more and more liberated from huge corporations who would love nothing better than to track my every movement.
But all this shielding and privacy comes at a price. I started a new school recently, and while I’ve managed to make a few acquaintances, the fact that I don’t have a Snapchat raises a few eyebrows. Do you really want a friend, or do you just want someone to build a streak with? The latter probably aren’t the type of people I’d like to be friends with, anyways.
It hurts me as a writer, too. The more obscure that a cloud gets, the harder it becomes to set up an effective document sync system so that I can work on my books from about anywhere. And getting into the public eye, which almost every writer aspires to, is nearly impossible nowadays if there aren’t any social media accounts that people can engage with. And I’m not giving away my private Facebook to people I don’t know in real life. The blasted platform is already tracking an harvesting my data to hell- I’m not making that gaping wound worse.
And what happens down the road? Most people are oversharers onine. I don’t want to be targeted by the FBI for “unusual behavior” or denied the job of my dreams because a Google search turned up absolutely nothing but garbage page that had nothing to do with me. But a blank search results screen is better than one incriminating me for the blissful oversharing years of my youth.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I don’t want to be famous. I don’t want to be one of the faces you see on tabloids for alleged drug abuse or an affair or one of the raging hotheads you see spouting unsourced nonsense all over Twitter. I don’t want fans mobbing my place of residence, now or wherever that may be in the future. I don’t want to be doxxed and then have to worry about my life and livelihood being ruined. I don’t want the attention to be on me, because it’s not about me. It’s about what I do, and I don’t see why I should need to sell my soul in order to get anywhere in the world.
Maybe the angst-filled songs were right, and this world isn’t the right place for me. But then again, maybe everything is fine and I’m being paranoid to the part of stunting myself. But then again, this email service hosted in Belgium does more for my data rights than Microsoft ever could…